(MintPress) – The long-standing conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands is not getting any friendlier.
Argentine diplomat Hector Timerman is refusing to meet with representatives of the Falkland Islands in discussions over the fate of its land, requesting instead a direct meeting with William Hague, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, in Bueno Aires.
The offer was met with a condition: the inclusion of Falkland Island leaders.
In March, residents of the islands will vote on a referendum that will determine whether the Falklands remain under U.K. control or be recognized as part of Argentina, as it once was.
A statement released by the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands addressed the concern of negotiations that lacked Falkland input, encouraging its involvement in any diplomatic exchange between Argentina and the U.K.
“Indeed, we look forward to giving Mr. Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina’s actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years,” the statement reads. “We demand that our rights be respected, and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come. It’s only right that he should hear this directly from us, as well as from Mr. Hague.”
The relations between the Falkland Islands, the U.K and Argentina spans decades, highlighted in the war of 1982, which resulted in the death of more than 650 Argentinians and 240 Britons. The conflict began when Argentina used military force to occupy the islands, prompting the U.K., under the direction of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to launch a counterattack, which led to Britain’s success.
Recently, Argentine president Cristina Kirchner has been vocal in her country’s opposition to British control of the islands, reigniting the flame of conflict and bringing the issue to the forefront of international recognition.
The referendum in March is likely to secure the U.K.’s argument that the Falklands should remain in its control, as the islands’ population of roughly 2,000 is largely made up of Britons. The U.S. has indicated the international community should honor the results of the March referendum.
After years of U.K. control and an unsuccessful and short-lived war to reclaim the islands, the question for Argentina is, why the concern now over the islands’ fate? It turns out there is oil in the waters surrounding the Falklands — and U.K. companies will soon be reaping the rewards.
In 2010, Rockhopper Exploration, a U.K.-based oil company, began a drilling campaign, resulting in three successful oil discoveries. Following its fruitful venture into the waters, the company struck a deal with Premier Oil, another U.K. oil company, for 60 percent of drilling permits in the waters surrounding the Falklands. The deal was valued at more than $900 million.